Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

January 29, 2004. Back in Maputo

My life in Maputo is decadent. I stay in a luxurious hotel. My room faces the sea, and looks down on an interesting busy avenue from seven stories up. It is spacious, with room to move, room to dance if I wanted to. The air conditioning is silent and efficient. The electricity works. The internet is available whenever I want it, at no extra cost. A friendly woman changes my sheets every day

despite my efforts to prevent it by making my own bed in the morning. She cleans my room, washes my dishes, and brings me a chocolate mint each evening. She knows I like chocolate but don’t want my bedcover pulled back, when she knocks she gives me my chocolate with a shy smile. Mornings they offer us a luxurious breakfast. The décor is modern and elegant, nothing like most hotels. On the roof is a fancy gym with gleaming chrome machines and sleek Maputans – mostly expats - working up a sweat. The roof terraces are calm and peaceful, swept with Indian Ocean breezes. They offer brilliant views of the sea and the city and the harbor, brilliant sunsets. The pool is fresh, a wonderful place to watch the light change in the evening from blue and gold of late afternoon, to dusty pink of dusk, to purple smudges of cloud, bruises over the sea, to dark blue of night.

Maputo is built on the Indian Ocean, and along rivers and estuaries and marshes. We are on a hill, a plateau overlooking the sea. A promenade follows the edge of the plateau, where middle-aged Mozambicans run in the morning, mothers bring children to play in the afternoon, and lovers linger in the evening. The view is stunning. At least I am stunned. To the north the sweep of the coast, the beach, a few kilometers away a single tall building towering over the houses and the road. To the south another sweep of coast, curving around to a point just opposite us as we gaze from the promenade. Looking down along the wooded hillside that we could almost call a cliff, an avenue lined with palm trees runs next to the sea, more people run there in the mornings. Just below us is the naval club, a fanciful white building with sparkling swimming pool and the sweep of jetties protecting a marina. Beyond the marina, the sea stretches as far

as the eye can see, just a few boats breaking the water. Mornings it is calm, but by afternoon the wind comes up and whitecaps sweep the surface of the sea. The palm fronds are whipped to and fro, sand blows off the beaches onto the road. Every afternoon it is the same, great gusts of wind bring the sea into the city.

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